My Philosophy About Competition

My philosophy about competition is best summed up by Henry Ford, who once said, “The competitor to be feared is one who never bothers about you at all, but goes on making his own business better all the time.”

In my business organization, BNI, members or directors often express concern about other competitive networking groups that are forming and bad-mouthing our company or attacking our program in some way. I tell my team that if they feel like someone is biting at our backsides, it’s because we’re out in front. Success in business is about constantly improving your product or service and making it better all the time. The process is a journey, not a destination. However, if you are constantly working to improve the system, improve the product, improve the culture and improve the team, you will also improve your position in the marketplace.

Almost 10 years ago I had a particularly aggressive competitor publicly state that he was going to bury our organization. Since then we’ve grown by almost 400 percent. I haven’t heard about his company in years. I’m not sure whether it’s still in business. Ford got it right. Keep making your business better, and you’ll have no need to fear your competitors–your business will be the one competitors fear the most.

7 thoughts on “My Philosophy About Competition

  1. So true, so true Ivan! Many people have stated they can put on a “BNI-like” show easily and then they proceed to fail miserbly!
    This is why it’s so important to remember the important aspects of the BNI program! Form our policies, guidelines, and Code Of Ethics, to our Directors (and direction), to our materials, training, and education, to the Givers Gain philosophy. No other organization has, or ever will, come close to what we offer.
    Some of these “copycat” versions of BNI (usually put together by a disgruntled ex-BNIer who failed to follow the program) start out with a bang, but, over time, they lose their business focus. A lot of them turn into a free for all, and most eventually fade into the sunset. The ones that remain have poor results overall and will continue to attack BNI. That’s why the line “keep making your business better” is so true!
    Of course, having the Founder constantly working his tail off and promoting BNI all over the world helps, too! 🙂

    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County, Ca.

  2. Hey Ivan –

    I don’t think there’s been a more appropriate time for the literal meaning of “mind your own business.” You’ve hit the nail on the head about the process being a journey, and in my business, I love the journey!

    Thanks for sharing.

    Looking forward,

    Jonathan Flaks

  3. “Never criticise your competitor” was the ‘advice’ that Warren Cass (Business Scene and Ecademy BlackStar) gave the leader of one UK-based ‘we-don’t-need-pieces-of-paper-to-prove-business’ for which read ‘we consider ourselves better than the worlds leading brand’ “if you do, you have just told members of your audience that they have poor judgement. And if you alienate one person, then that’s one too many”. I just loved that. Warren succinctly, and very wisely gave voice to my gut instincts.

    Whilst I am not a member of BNI I have the deepest respect for BNI since it was in their embrace that I learnt that what I did ‘naturally’ had a name – it was networking. It was in BNI that I learned that there was a whole philosophy to it (Givers Gain)- and this was a concept that too gave expression to my gut instinct.

    Further more it taught me that I had a lot to learn too. So, i’m indebted to Ivan for his world-wide leadership in the area of Networking. As with all organisations there will be ‘the bad apple’, that thinks implementing the ‘letter of the law’ (usually ‘hunters’ who still haven’t fully transformed into farmers ie talk the talk but …..!) before educating it members in the ‘spirit of the law’.

    Sadly, as in any farming activity trying to artificially accelerate the harvest will always conform to ‘the universal law of unintended outcomes’ In my opinion it is peoples experiences of those unintentional, yet well meaning ‘rogues’that have led to some of the other networks being established.

    St Paul had a similar experience (an what a ‘networker’ he was!!) He had people who “proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill … (the former) proclaim … out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; the others proclaim out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment” His conclusion? ” What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” (Phil 1:15-8)

    No Networker with Integrity would criticise the World Leading Brand. Critique yes, criticise no! The former is out of RESPECT, the later out of DISrespect. Someone has to set the standards! I refer back to my opening comments from Warren Cass. Those who willfully criticise BNI, and indeed those BNI’s who with unwitting and unintended arrogance reveal that they are still on the journey from hunter to farmer. We can all ‘forgive’ immaturity if it is recognised! (And I’ll be the first to admit I constantly learning how to be a better Netwoker … learning to ‘execute the fundamentals’ so I too can soon ‘Network Like a Pro’

    OK, you may ask, why am I not a BNIer. I had left BNI due to a long-tern health issue. I was looking to rejoin, and quite simply Business over Breakfast (BoB) Clubs gave me an opportunity that wasn’t available to me else where. In my opinion, it leaves me ‘free’ to speak well of BNI, as an outside, and hopefully the critical FRIEND, offering the occasional critique.

    Recently our MD, Geoff Cox, related a story that I hopes reveals the heart of a true networker. ” A BoB CLub member came to me and said ‘Geoff I have a problem. I have a client that needs a good accountant. The problem is I just don’t think that the Accountant in my BoB Club would be the right person for my client. What should I do?’ Geoff said “Don’t you know an Accountant through your time with BNI. How good is he?’ ‘Absolutely fantastic replied the BoBClub member’ “Well, there’s your answer responded Geoff refer him to the BNI Accountant” Guess what .. the Accountant in BNI was bowled over!

    I think we have to remember that the purpose of Close Contact Groups is a means rather than an end in itself. And don’t forget pg 22 of ‘Business by Referral’ .. there more than one type of Networking Groups. Only a few of us could be termed ‘competitors’, in that we operate at the ‘Close Contact’ end of the spectrum. I’m happy to be there, and to build bridges.

    Currently, I am involved in a ‘Co-opetition’ (see Wikipedia for more info) Event- Network Central (Bristol) in the UK. BNI is participating with us and a dozen or more of us smaller Networking Organisations plus two larger Membership Organisations that provide Networking. See us all on of follow us on Twitter/Network_Central. In my opinion it expresses the spirit of International Networking Week that Ivan established a few years back.

    Keep leading he way Ivan … we’ll try to catch you, in the right spirit I hope! … But you’ve one ‘ell of a distance on us in global terms.

  4. Ivan, I loved your Ford quote — “Keep making your business better, and you’ll have no need to fear your competitors–your business will be the one competitors fear the most.” It is a bit daunting when you’re first starting out but my take away from this article is to know your market, to make friends who can mutually support each other, and to focus on your core competencies. Thanks for sharing!

  5. You may be very surprised what nuggets of knowledge you may get from befriending your competitors. Learn from them and grow. I watch my competitors close their mistakes and victories.

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